Posted by: philosopherouge | August 25, 2007

Philip Marlowe on the Silver Screen

Raymond Chandler

Although I can’t admit being a great reader, no author succeeds to thrill me more than Raymond Chandler. It’s not the criminal or mystery aspect that interests me, but Chandler’s prose and Philip Marlowe who ranks among the most fascinated characters in literature. He is the only honest man in a dishonest world. He is in many ways the prototype of the modern Private Eye (along with Sam Spade), although far more layered than the parodies will have you know. He is an incredibly rich and conflicted character, who’s motive, while honourable, is never quite clear. He is an enigma, and the more we learn about him, the less we know. His world is dark, corrupt, rich, impoverished, and greedy. He seems infallible, even invulnerable to temptation but this isn’t as it seems. More than once he truly loses his temper, and I unfortunately think none of the screen adaptations (at least that I’ve seen) captures his fits of frustration. The most marking perhaps is in the Big Sleep, when he finds Carmen Sternwood naked in his apartment. She calls him a filthy name, and something in him snaps, he remarks to himself “I couldn’t stand her in that room any longer. What she called me only reminded me of that”. He manages to throw her out, and instead of resigning to the event as we expect him too, maybe pour some more drink he “[tears] the bed to pieces”. These are the moments, even though they are far and inbetween that always make me come back to his stories. I’m constantly trying to figure Marlowe out.

What I know about Marlowe is fairly simplistic, he’s smarter than a Private dick ought to be. He not only has street smarts, but is well versed in literature, history and has ongoing chess games with himself going on. He is often making allusions to other detectives, like Philo Vance or Sherlock Holmes. If not that he makes references to Wuthering Heights that goes over people’s heads. His chess games emphasis his inner turmoils, and the mentioning of the “white knight” is recurring. At times he accepts this role, while other times he bitterly acknowledges that this is no world for knights. Another angle about his character that intrigues me is his interraction with women. He isn’t the ladies man most of the films paint him out to be, when women do “fall” for him (it’s rare), it’s usually as a means of gaining advantage rather than true affection. Then, if we come back to that moment I mentioned earlier where Carmen offers herself to Marlowe, I think his character again delves into complexities that are often undermined. It’s not only the honourable thing to reject her, because it would make him better at his job. That is only part of it, and perhaps the most minor. Her presence truly enrages him, and reveals a resentment of women far deeper than one would have thought. I don’t think it’s misoginy on his part, or Chandler’s, but a hardness acquired from too many mistakes and betrayals. The next morning, out of type, he is still upset over the incident and he says “women make me sick”. It’s the only moment I’ve encountered, amidst a lot of beatings, betrayals and near death experiences that he truly holds a strong resentment and grudge. Carmen represents something for Marlowe that the reader is not allowed to understand, we can only guess and piece together a puzzle of a man who is terribly frustrated and hurt. I think a lot of it is that he was tempted to take advantage (or be taken advantage of), and not only does part of himself which he did, the other part is punishing and blaming others for these thoughts.

As I’m reading The High Window, I’m taking a break to think about who is the best screen version of Marlowe. I still haven’t seen Marlowe (1969) with James Garner, any of the Robert Mitchum, The Brasher Doubloon (1947) with George Montgomery or any of the television incarnations. If you’re good at math, that leave four screen Marlowes; Dick Powell (Murder, my Sweet, 1944), Humphrey Bogart (The Big Sleep, 1946), Robert Montgomery (The Lady in the Lake, 1947) and Elliot Gould (The Long Goodbye, 1973). I actually like all of these actors, and what they bring to the role. I also like all of these films, so really it’s a matter of what is closest to my own vision of who Philip Marlowe is that counts the most.

Dick Powell

Let’s start with Dick Powell in Murder, My Sweet (not only because it’s the earliest film, it also so happens it has been the longest since I’ve seen it). Based on Farewell, My Lovely (the title was changed because people thought it was a Powell musical) the film is fairly accurate, and Powell is a more than serviceable Marlowe. It’s interesting to note that this is actually Chandler’s own favourite onscreen Marlowe, although He is all at once ordinary and good looking enough to play the part, but unfortunately for Powell he also doesn’t seem weathered enough. I can hardly blame that on him though. He is a little too silly for my tastes, and while there is no denying that Marlowe had a sense of humour it’s a lot darker and quicker than Powell is able to effectively pull off. Overall I’d probably rank him near the bottom of the list, although as I said earlier I like them all.

Humphrey Bogart

Next comes the immortal Bogart, in the classic The Big Sleep. While this vies for my favourite Chandler adaptation, it’s probably the most innacurate. Bogart captures a lot of the charm and wit of the character, and has the face for it. I think though, ultimately Hawks’ vision does not coincide with Chandler’s. Add in the editorial changes to play up on the Bogart and Bacall chemistry there isn’t much left of the story. I will say though, that Hawks makes Chandler’s convolutedness work so absurdly well. This film is truly a landmark for mainstream film, as it is so artfully done. Nearly all of Marlowe’s darkness and loneliness is cut out in this film, but Bogart manages to make it more than just a pulpy James Bond detective. I think Bogart edges out Powell, he just is a better actor.

Robert Montgomery

Montgomery is an interesting and difficult case to assess. Not only did he star in the film, but he directed it and took a rather interesting approach to the subject matter. Chandler didn’t quite like it, making cracks that shooting a film in the first person is what everyone discusses in a board room before coming to their senses because it’s a ridiculous idea. I think this is not a fair thing to say about The Lady in the Lake, which I found a rather interesting experiment that fell apart more often that it should have, although not as much as I expected. Playing off of the first person narration of the novels, the camera becomes Marlowe and the only moments we ever seen Montgomery are in mirrors or reflections. This unfortunately makes it nearly impossible for me to say that anybody here is the perfect Marlowe. I think Montgomery is an incredibly talented actor, and while I admire his experiment wish he had either done this in a more traditional way or reprised the role in some way. He’s a little too clean cut for the part, but as he proved in The Night Must Fall, he can work that to his advantage. I’m putting him on the same level as Powell, because it’s a very interesting approach, even if it doesn’t hit the mark. Worth seeing.

Now we come to one of the more controversial adaptations, if not the most, of Chandler’s work; Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. Not only does Altman make several changes to the original story, he transplants the story to the 1970s, which in concept sounds like a terrible idea. The late 1930s and 1940s were an interesting time in the United States, notably in the cynicism that was creeping into the homes and the back streets because of the war, ongoing class and racial issues and emerging social ideas that were set to change the country. It was all this that allowed film noir to emerge, and to become one of the most defining and relevant era/genre of film to come out of the States. It was wrong of me to think these feelings were exclusive to the afore mentioned era, even as an interpretation of one of the great icons of the genre, Philip Marlowe. Altman transfers this angst and cynicism to the 1970s with a lot of flair. I think this is aided by the fact, that as much as the great noirs completely embrace the style and feel of their respected era, Altman’s Long Goodbye does here. There is no effort to mask the time frame, and in retrospect that’s what makes it work so well. It has the same underlying themes as The Big Sleep, or The Big Heat but is presented with a lot more colour (for obvious colour related reasons), sunshine and humour (although, Hawks’ The Big Sleep is still very tongue in cheek, doesn’t quite reach the level of The Long Goodbye). The film works both as a “serious” character and thematic exploration, but also as exploration and parody of genre.

Elliot Gould

Gould may be the closest thing to an accurate portrayal of Marlowe I’ve seen. Chandler’s Marlowe was not a physical or intimidating character, he relied almost too heavily on his intelligence and intuition.This in part explains why he so readily allows himself to be beat up by various people, animals and in this case objects. However, unlike Sherlock Holmes he never really embraces his talents. I wouldn’t say he’s self loathing, but there is a definite insecurity in his character, that often comes through as self sacrificing comedy. Even from Chandler’s novels, we know very little about what motivates Marlowe, or his history. He did work for the district attorney, but somehow things fell through (I’ve noticed his explanation of why, seems to change from book to book), he is though an honest man, surrounded by criminals and liars. The screenplay does a wonderful job by really isolating Marlowe, by continually turning characters on their head. Who you think is good, is bad, and who you think is bad… are usually bad, but occasionally good. Marlowe is further isolated, by not fully updating his character to the 1970s. You could easily have transported Gould’s performance to a film made in the early 1950s, with perhaps a slight tweak in costume and his character and performance would not have felt out of place. However, the people around him tend to typify the 1970s despite playing common “types”. Their transition would be a lot more difficult (for the most part). Marlowe is a character who never gets a fair break, financially or socially. All his relationships dissolve in one way or another, even his cat leaves him. His character is constantly in limbo, between love and hate, law and crime, life and death, rich and poor… he is very much a mythical creation despite being so ordinary, there are no detectives like Marlowe, especially not in the 1970s. This is what Raymond Chandler wrote on private detectives,

“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.”

Altman and Gould work especially well to hide the interior and “real” emotions of Marlowe. There are only two or three moments when he really allows his emotions to emerge beyond the surface, and they are among the best and most striking scenes of the film.

It seems the next person to play the immortal Philip Marlowe will be none other than Clive Owen. I must admit this made me very happy, until I found out Frank Miller “master of subtlety” is slated to direct. Maybe I’m undervaluing the man who brought such thematic and character rich stories like Sin City and 300 to the screen, if only as the creator of the comics or co-director. Call me very apprehensive over these, I really hope it turns out well…



  1. […] Beyond The Valley of the Cinephiles has published a wide-ranging article on screen adaptations of Chandler’s detective fiction: Philip Marlowe on the Silver Screen. […]

  2. Awesome write up.

    Sort of makes me want to watch The Long Goodbye all over again.

  3. You should see it again! I should too. Too good

  4. I love humphry Bogart! He’s one of the best ‘tough’ guys their is!

  5. Given my name I should know more about the character outside of the Big Sleep, but I don’t. Quite a lot of research and passion here. Me I chose the name because I love film-noir and The Big Sleep was one of my favorites, although I got confused with Sam Spade and Marlowe when putting down the name several years ago. I kind of got used to the name since. Anyways, great read philosophe. I really ought to pick up a Chandler novel.

  6. The book is well worth picking up, probably my favourite novel. Chandler has a wonderful prose, and although I didn’t touch on it here a lot of filmmakers and screenwriters have somehow tried to integrate this onto screen through voice overs or in the case of Robert Montgomery a first person narrator that internalizes his thoughts.

  7. Although being a devoted Hawks admirer, I always felt his’ “Big Sleep” was a vastly overrated film and a dreadful distorsion of Chandler’s masterpiece. Hawks never got the feeling of melancholy and imminent death that permeated the novel and particulalry its last pages. All the additional material (the “jockey” scene, the taxi girl, etc.) was pretty bad, and the Marlowe/Vivian altered beyond recognition to fit the Bogart/Bacall couple (but the magic of “to Have and Have Not” was already gone by that time). Max Steiner’s musical choices were at best odd… The casting of many parts also left a lot to be desired, except for Elisha Cook Jr. and Bob Steele, etc.

  8. You should check out Robert Mitchum in Farewell, My Lovely….Best adaptation i have seen….Forget the follow up though it wasn’t very good.

  9. Interesting thing abou “Long Goodbye” is that Leigh Brackett, who had a major hand in the screenplay on “The Big Sleep” is credited on the “Goodbye” screenplay, as well. (Of course, given Altman’s style, how much of her screenplay remains on the screen is problematic.)

  10. I think the quality of the film itself plays a big part in how the actor appears as marlow. The Big Sleep, for instance, isn’t as satisfying as Murder, My Sweet. You really should watch Bob Mitchum’s portrayal, at least in Farewell, My Lovely. His marlow is aging and bitter, a nice contrast. Also, you should check out Chandler’s short stories. I enjoy them more than the novels. His Goldfish is my favorite and would make a great flick.

  11. If you ever get the chance to see any of them, you should check out any of the mid 80’s 9-part HBO series “Philip Marlowe, Private Eye” starring Powers Boothe. While the series itself has it’s ups and downs, I thought Boothe’s portrayal of Marlowe was spot on.

  12. Otto: I definetely see where you’re coming from, and while this used to be easily my favourite Hawks film, since my appreciation for the novel has grown the film has diminished in my view even if I try to see them as seperate entities, especially as you rightly point out, Chandler’s novel in character, plot and tone is changed beyond recognition. I still love the film though, and see it as the culmination of Hawk’s kinetic and free verse style. In many ways, his style and the Big Sleep were the best match, but Hawks himself got in the way. Just out of curiosity, what would be your favourite Hawks film?

    Foxymulder: Sure thing, I’ve heard interesting things about that entry in the Mitchum Marlowe, but beyond that things seem grim.

    Mike: I was unaware of that, thank you for bringing that to my attention.

    Ed: Interesting, I find the Big Sleep a lot more sastifying than Murder, my Sweet because I think it’s a far better film. Murder suffers a bit from it’s b-movie-ish status. A shame because Powell really does come very close to truly capturing the Marlowe essesence. I’ve read one or two of Chandler’s short stories, but I’ll put in some effort to read a few more.

    xtopherp: I’ve never even heard of that series, sounds like something I’d be highly interested in, if not outright adore.

  13. Yes, you’re not a “great reader” – you sure ain’t a great writer either. Now that your blog is being linked from a giant portal like IMDb, it’s probably time to brush up on your basic writing skills and maybe consider doing a little something called proofreading prior to posting.

  14. This person is a clown.

    Seen a few detective movies? The internet will make you an expert (or at least sound just like one to other “dicriminating” intellects like yourself).

    Murder My Sweet the first Marlowe film? Guess again.

    Sam Spade pre-dated Marlowe by about 25 years for anybody who isn’t accomadating the author’s contention that Marlowe is the prototype of the “private dick”..

    Marlowe is a “fascinated” character. Talk about defining deviance down.

  15. Niko: Sure thing, I do tend to jump the gun and post without proof reading much. Something I should probably work on. I always appreciate constructive critisism.

    James, oh James. Putting words in my mouth! I never said that Murder my Sweet was the first Marlowe film, it just happens to the first I’ve seen. Perhaps you misinterpreted by cryptic language, as I did say the earliest film that will be discussed. Excuse my mistake if that’s how you took it.

    As for my contention that he is the prototype, note I said:
    “ost fascinated characters in literature. He is the only honest man in a dishonest world. He is in many ways the prototype of the modern Private Eye (along with Sam Spade)”

    I even acknowledge Sam Spade in my post, but he isn’t wasn’t my main point of interest, so I simply touched on him. I’m not well versed in Hammett’s work, I do know he’s a predecessor to Chandler, and his work is a lot less “fantastic” and exagerrated than Chandler.

    I apologize heartily for my typos.

  16. Re : my favorite Hawks film? I’ll choose “Only Angels Have Wings” as the epitome of Hawksian classicism and the most eloquent and moving illustration of Hawks’ philosophy and work ethic. Of course, if it means giving up the Wayne-Dru scene in “Red River”, the river sequences of “The Big Sky”, and Angie in “Rio Bravo”…

  17. Otto: Great choice, one of my favourites as well! It certainly is the best example of his philosophy, really the best example of the deconstruction of masculinity, and genders. It strikes me as a very personal film for him.

  18. Great article!

    I really hated Altman’s film and Gould’s Marlowe. Imo the movie has nothing to do with the book and Gould has nothing to do with Marlowe. The ending annoyed me particularly.
    My favorite Marlowe might be the one from ‘Murder, My Sweet’, though he didn’t feel tough enough. ‘The Big Sleep’ was fun and Bogie was good, but the movie departs from the book in some important ways, as some of you guys have noted.
    Imo Bogie and Gould are too small to be Marlowe. I imagine Marlowe as a big, tough guy. He must be cynical, yet romantic. I imagine something like Mitchum or Sterling Hayden (I haven’t seen the Mitchum Chandler-based movie yet either).

    For those interested in reading the books: I recently got all 7 of Chandler’s Marlowe novels in two tomes from Amazon. The two tomes are with hard covers and are nicely bound. The publisher is Everyman’s Library. I got on some special offer, where Amazon sold me both tomes with a solid discount. I paid something like 40 Canadian dollars for the pair.

  19. Altman is very devisive, as is this film in particular. You’re right that it ressembles little the source material, but I still truly believe it captures beautifully the tone of it, if anything accentuating it as Marlowe is now in an even more alienating environment, as he is an icon of the past.

    I agree with you on Murder and Big Sleep.

    You’re very right, Marlowe is described as tall and rugged. The scene that’s turned into a joke in the Big Sleep, the film, is that Carmen says

    “Carmen Sternwood: You’re not very tall are you?
    Philip Marlowe: Well, I, uh, I try to be.”

    The book has a similar exchange, but it’s reversed somewhat and Carmen remarks on how tall Marlowe is. I don’t mind the deviation personally though. It does make some difference though, I’ve had someone comment on the fact that when Marlowe loses his size, as he does in both films, it robs him somewhat of his intimidating quality that’s more present in the novels. In many ways, Gould’s/Altman’s interpretation only showcases part of who Marlowe is while ignoring many facets of who he was in the same way Hawks does. I still say their’s is a closer interpretation because I feel it’s tonally and thematically in tune with Chandler’s work.

    As I have yet to see Mitchum’s either, I agree that in concept he really does fit the “look”.

  20. […] Philip Marlowe on the Silver Screen […]

  21. I want to second the plug for Powers Boothe in the “Philip Marlowe, Private Eye” series that played on HBO in the 80’s. It’s available on DVD. I’ve seen the films that you discussed, but when I hear the name Philip Marlowe, I only see Powers Boothe.

  22. I’ve read all the Phillip Marlowe books and short stories and even the couple of books written by Robert Parker. I’ve even read all the short stories that Chandler wrote that involved detectives other than Marlowe. By far, Marlowe is my favorite fictional character.
    I’ve seen most of the movies, with the exception of the Elliot Gould version. I actually thought that if Robert Mitchum had made the movies in the late 50’s or early 60’s he could have been a perfect Marlowe, but as it is, he’s a little too old for Marlowe and his lines aren’t delivered as well as other actors have done.
    I actually like the Dick Powell movie: Murder, My Sweet. I thought Powell pulled off the dialogue and the attitude better than most. Bogart’s version is much tougher and not as dark as the books. I found Robert Montgomery’s version difficult to watch. The one with James Garner carries a little more of Marlowe’s persona, but the 60’s update didn’t really work as well as I had hoped.
    I was ecstatic to see this article and I think it really brings out the “meat” of the novels. I’ll have to check out Altman’s movie as this article made it seem a lot more interesting than I ever thought it could be.

  23. 1975 – Dick Richards’ “Farewell My Lovely” – a fine and atmospheric adaptation. Great line from Mitchum in response to the wonderully sexy Charlotte Rampling’s line to Marlowe: “You’re kind of old-fashioned”. Marlowe: “Only from the waist up”.

  24. I may wrong but I seem to recall that in Chandler’s opinion, the ideal Marlowe would have been… Cary Grant. What a great casting idea : Grant would have expressed not only the moral “toughness” of Marlowe, but, more sisgnificantly, his wit, elegance and melancholy.

  25. Cary Grant would have been able to pull off the dialogue better than most.
    I think it’s a shame that Robert Montgomery’s version isn’t better. I thought Montgomery would have been a great Marlowe, but his movie is just hard to watch because of the first person narrative.

  26. I’ve been checking the internet since reading this article for information about Clive Owen playing Marlowe, but I can’t find it anywhere. Where can I find this? What book will they be pulling this from?

  27. Dane: How familiar are you with Altman’s work? It’s still a big departure from the original novels, and Altman has a very idiosynctric style that not everyone likes. It’s just a warning, because I still think you should see it.

    Otto: I never heard that about Grant, I do know that Fleming listed him as the ideal Bond though, and that seems more apropos. Grant, even at his grittiest (mind you I haven’t seen him in None but the Lonely Heart) doesn’t strike as quite right for the role somehow. I think he’s a brilliant actor, but I don’t see him having the right moral ambiguity and confliction I think is needed for the role. As I mentioned though, nothing he has done really ressembles the Marlowe role and I would love to be proved wrong.

    Dane: Those are my exact thoughts on the Montgomery vision, it was really a stupid gimmick, that even Chandler resented saying something along the lines that in every production meeting a first person POV is always discussed but rightfully dismissed as fanciful and ridiculous. I suppose it’s good that he did it so that people learn from his mistakes. He did strike me as a good Marlowe though.

    Here is a short blurb on the news that they will be making the film:
    It seems they are adapting Trouble is my Business

  28. philosopherouge, thanks for the link, I don’t know if Clive Owen is right for the part or not, but I like the idea of Frank Miller directing. Should be interesting if nothing else.

    Ian Fleming described James Bond in one of his early books as looking like Hoagy Carmichael — that’s a far cry from Cary Grant. But, I think Fleming liked Grant’s debonaire style and class that Bond exhudes.

    I will check out Altman’s version. I’ve seen “M*A*S*H”, “Nashville” and a couple of others, he’s not my favorite director mostly because he just lets the actors go and doesn’t use the camera as adeptly as some other directors, he’s kind of Bergman-like without the great lighting and deep shadows.

  29. I’m actually at a different place then you, I think Clive Owen is right for the part, but I’m very wary of Miller. I didn’t like Sin City, even though I realise he didn’t direct it. It was shallow, and I didn’t even find it nice to look at. I just hope it’s a big departure from that.

    I think he uses the camera a lot, a lot of tracking shots, he lets editing to the speaking for the most part. A lot of wide shots, and jump cuts. I prefer his style to Bergman, but they’re both good in different ways.

  30. I think Clive Owen can be tough and moody I just think he’s too good looking, not to mention he’s British…
    I think that Frank Miller must have grown up on Film Noir and books by Chandler and Hammet, that’s why I think he would be good to direct. I can’t imagine that they’ll do it like Sin City.

    Altman gets a lot out of his actors (or got a lot out of them) and most actors loved him for that.

  31. Havec just found the Chandler quote on Marlowe and Cary Grant I was looking for : “If I had ever had the opportunity of selecting the movie actor who would best represent him to my mind, I think it would have been Cary Grant.” (from THE SELECTED LETTERS FO RAYMOND CHANDLER, edited by Frank Macshane, letter to D. J. Ibberson, april 19, 1951).
    By the way, you might be interested to know that François Truffaut called Marlowe a homosexual. Makes you wonder about his lucidity in general and his understanding of Chandler’s work in particular.

  32. Sorry for the typos in the above.
    Have just found the Chandler quote on Marlowe and Cary Grant I was looking for : “If I had ever had the opportunity of selecting the movie actor who would best represent him to my mind, I think it would have been Cary Grant.” (from THE SELECTED LETTERS OF RAYMOND CHANDLER, edited by Frank MacShane, letter to D. J. Ibberson, april 19, 1951). Chandler’s letters deserve to be read one by one ; that particular one is the best Philip Marlowe description ever – except for your own, of course…
    By the way, you might be interested and/or amused to know that François Truffaut called Marlowe a homosexual. Makes you wonder about his lucidity in general and his knowledge and understanding of Chandler’s work in particular.

  33. Dane: I don’t personally have a problem with him being British, he’s a great actor and I have a lot of confidance in his abilities. Still not convinced on Miller, none of his work show too much insight into the human psyche or culture, aside from his tendency for overblown visuals. Again, I hope I’m very wrong.

    Otto: Thank you for that, I had read that as well, which is why it came to my mind. I actually read that book, or most of it but the library that had a copy has since been closed. I’ll have to get it by other means. As for Truffaut, I’d be interested in seeing the quote and the context. It could be a bad translation, as I’ve read some personally abysmal versions of his reviews in Cahiers, or at the very least the context might enlighten his meaning. I think it probably stems from what can be perceived as Marlowe’s distate for certain women in his books, notably in the Big Sleep when Carmen is in his apartment naked he’s disgusted, and while this doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the fact she is a woman, the next chapter/morning he goes on a tyrade about women. I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination this means he is a homosexual, but his interractions and thoughts on women are fascinating in their own right. Again, if you have the context or the exact quote/book I’d be interested in seeing it.

  34. I agree with your analysis of Truffaut’s bizarre assertion. I don’t remember the context but I remember very clearly the exact wording. Also, it was NOT a “bad translation” – Truffaut said it in french and I’m French.

  35. It was reasonable for me to inquire, French from France? A Quebecois speaking here :p I’ll see what I can do for looking up the reference though, I never thought Truffaut as one to make outrageous and controversial statements for the sake of drawing attention like his contemporaries (especially Godard), but I don’t doubt he said it in the least.

  36. Be reassured : Truffaut never meant it as an outrageous or controversial statement and he wasn’t trying to draw attention on himself à la Godard. He just stated what to him was an evidence. Apart from the fact that he relished David Goodis and William Irish, I am not sure Truffaut ever read them (or Chandler, Hammett, etc.) in english. Although this is no excuse, you may have heard that the french translations of these authors in the “Série Noire” have been heavily edited, and sometimes the tone and meaning of the original have been slightly “adapted” to please the “hard-boiled” aficionados. (This is particularly noticable in the final lines of The Big Sleep translation.)
    Re Chandler, have you read the last issue of LA Weekly ?
    Also, can we expect something from you about that most neglected of Lang’s film “Rancho Notorious”.
    “Things are very peaceful here, marshal” said Alter Keane. But let’s not keep them TOO quiet…

  37. I haven’t heard that, but I’ve read ‘figurative” translations of Therese Raquin, as well as Zola’s original and a lot of liberties are taken sometimes. I imagine the same thing happens the other way around, just for kicks I may read one someday.

    I don’t read many magazines, is it worth checking out?

    I actually haven’t seen Rancho Notorious (yet) but one of my favourite blogs (on the blog roll) is named after the film, some great writing and insights. I’m still way behind on my Lang despite my adoration for his work.

  38. LA WEEEKLY has a piece on two quite recent books of interest : photos of LA as evoked in Chandler’s novels, and a bio focused on his relation to his wife Cissy.
    Re l’ami Fritz : see Man Hunt, if you haven’t – and don’t let anyone tell you about the amazing opening scene.
    Re translations in general : Jack London’s books have been disfugured for years in their french translations. Also… Bambi, in Walt Disney’s novelization. If you can find the original, you’ll notice that it’s much more “adult” and downright cruel.

  39. My memories of Ray Chandler’s Philip Marlowe were riveting and imaginate, as if Mr. Chandler had created a fictitious private investigator who was capable of fighting physical and addictive crime, justice and corruption. Watch and post excerpts from Philip Marlowe on the World Wide Web at

  40. I just found two graphic novels on that are spun from Chandler’s stories. The first one is called: “Marlowe” and the second is “Playback”. The “Marlowe” one seems to have a few different stories in it and “Playback” (according to one reviewer) is based on an un-produced screenplay that Chandler wrote. I do believe that Chandler wrote a short story called “Playback”.

    Anyway, I just thought I’d throw that in there especially with the talk of Frank Miller doing a movie version of Chandler’s famous protagonist.

  41. …. just checked my Raymond Chandler collection…
    “Playback” is a novel. I don’t know if the graphic novel is based on this or, perhaps Chandler was working on a screenplay from his novel.

  42. Sounds very interesting regardless, I am not aware of Playback in any form… I need to get back on track.

  43. “Playback” i a relatively short nouvel, which started as a screenplay. In it Phil found back the great love of his life, he had briefly encountered in The Long Goodbye. They would be a married couple in the next novel which Chandler’s death left unfiinished – and which would most probably have put an end to the Marlowe cycle. For Chandler’s fan, the last lines of Playback are particularly moving. Enjoy them, philosopherouge…

  44. Otto, did you read “Poodle Springs” co-authored by Robert Parker? I thought Parker carried off Chandler’s style pretty well, but according to Parker he was painted into a corner with what Chandler had written. Parker also wrote a sequel to “The Big Sleep”, titled: “Perchance to Dream” I didn’t think this was very good and since Parker hasn’t written any more Marlowe novels, I’m assuming that I’m not the only one who thought this.

  45. I read a good deal of Poodle Springs (I’m terrible with finishin books, especially library borrowed ones like this was) and I agree that stylistically, it was pretty spot on. I also might have to agree with Parker, even in the premise the film feels too off colour. Being married ruins so much of Marlowe for me… I don’t know, it just felt weird in so many ways.

  46. Yes, it does feel weird. A Nick and Nora Charles kind of wedding was not meant for our friend Marlowe. Chandler did not mean that marriage to be a fairytale happy end. Phil and his (very rich) wife were too different from the start, and their union would not last beyond that book which was to end the Marlowe cycle.

  47. I never saw the movie version of “Poodle Springs”, wasn’t James Caan in that? I like Caan, but don’t know if he is quite right for Marlowe. Is it worth watching at all?

  48. I’m still waiting for the “perfect” Marlowe actor – I haven’t seen him yet. Maybe no one could ever live up to the man I have in my head!

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